By Pam Vukelic
In 1931 Marjorie Rombauer wrote “The Joy of Cooking,” not because she was a good cook but because she needed the money. Since then there have been many iterations on “The Joy of…” theme. I’m adding my own–“The Joy of the Handwritten Note.”
My goal is to encourage you to resist the urge to send an email message, tweet, or text when a handwritten note would be a better choice. The electronic methods are easy and quick, but they lack the impact of a note delivered directly to your mailbox. When you take the time to put pen to paper, to thoughtfully choose your words and share your personal sentiments, the recipient of your note is going to be so much more deeply touched than if you dash off a quick message on your phone or laptop. It is so much less a conscious action than if you write. Your note is likely to be read and reread. To be savored. Perhaps it’ll be posted on the refrigerator and maybe used for a time as a bookmark, with each glance at it a memory of the pleasantry it provided.
In her book “The Art of the Handwritten Note,” Margaret Shepherd suggests there are three reasons to write: obligations, occasions, and opportunities.
Obligations. If you’ve received a gift (e.g., wedding, graduation, shower) the giver deserves a thank you note. Mention what the gift was and explain how meaningful it is to you. Following up after a job interview with a thank you note may set you apart from other applicants. I’m not sure we have done enough to impress upon our young people what the value is of follow-up with a thank you note. It is an obligation. When sending a note of condolence following a death be sure to recall a memory or make another personal heartfelt comment.
Occasions. Anniversaries, birthdays, births, job promotions, and graduations are easy to notice. What is more meaningful – a short text message that says simply “Happy Birthday” or writing a note that explains why you value your relationship with the honoree? Share your joy of grandparenting with a new grandparent and emphasize a quality in your friend that will make a terrific grandparent. Comment on a particular quality you recognize in a co-worker that contributed to her advancement.
Opportunities. These are moments you seek out. Make it a habit to notice a reason to send a note. Maybe you read about an accomplishment that was noted in the newspaper. Perhaps you noticed a neighbor’s seasonal decorations made a beautiful statement on your street. You might have observed a child’s awesome behavior, on which you can compliment the child and the parent. Note the anniversary of the death of a loved one to remind your family member that others feel his loss.
Prepare a bin, box, or basket to hold a stash of note cards, stamps, and a favorite writing tool. Keep it handy–maybe on your desk in the kitchen or next to your recliner. That way you can write your note when the thought occurs to you.
Stock up on generic note cards or get a bit crafty and make some of your own and you’ll have no need to run to the store to pick up a card for a particular event or occasion. I’ve often found a beautiful box of notecards on a clearance table, proof of the fact that not enough people buy and send notes. Your handwritten note, with words you have chosen yourself, will more than make up for a canned verse on a purchased card.
The joy, though, is for you, the sender, as much as for the receiver. When you pause to focus on the positive in your note, you are giving yourself a better day. It is a moment of mindfulness. It is reminiscent of a gratitude journal many people keep to remind themselves of the good things going on in their lives. Make it a goal to send a note a week or even a note a day. The holiday season presents so many opportunities, not to mention obligations and occasions to note. You and your recipients will be rewarded with joy.
Pam Vukelic is an online FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) instructor for the Missouri River Educational Consortium. As Grandma to Connor, Elvin, and Claire, she is familiar with the values and joys of reading to children! Pam splits her time between Bismarck and The Villages in Florida.